Monday, 11 February 2013

Down a fourth

Bass Matthew Rose and pianist Gary Matthewman have a new record out, on Stone Records, of Schubert's great song cycle Die Winterreise. The disc is getting very good reviews and, though I have not heard the disc, I heard the two of them performing the cycle live at a private recital in 2011 and their performance was superb. But this brings me back to a subject that continually nags at me - transposition. Rose performs most of Schubert's songs transposed down a fourth (Schubert's originals are for the tenor voice). Is it acceptable to shunt Schubert's piano part down a fourth, does it make any difference? I suppose the answer is in the performance. a great performance transcends the medium. But still I worry.

2 comments:

  1. It makes a difference, but I think whether or not it works depends on the performers' ability to not get bogged down in the thicker sonority of a low key, and also the song itself -- a song about twittering birds or twinkling stars might be harder to convincingly transpose down a 4th than, say, a song about digging a grave.

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  2. So it works best with a gloomy cycle like Winterreise!

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